new study led by UCLA Health scientists shows highly creative people’s
brains appear to work differently from others’, with an atypical
approach that makes distant connections more quickly by bypassing the
“hubs” seen in non-creative brains.
creative visual artists and scientists—called “Big C” creative
types—volunteered to undergo functional MRI brain imaging, giving
researchers in psychiatry, behavioral sciences and psychology a look at
how regions of the brain connected and interacted when called upon to
perform tasks that put creative thinking to the test.
results showed that highly creative people had unique brain
connectivity that tended to stay off the beaten path,” said Ariana
Anderson, a professor and statistician at the Semel Institute for
Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, the lead author of a new
article in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.
While non-creatives tended to follow the same routes across the brain, the highly creative people made their own roads.
the concept of creativity has been studied for decades, little is known
about its biological bases, and even less is understood about the brain
mechanisms of exceptionally creative people, said senior author Robert
Bilder, director of the Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity
at the Semel Institute.
uniquely designed study included highly creative people representing
two different domains of creativity—visual arts and the sciences—and
used an IQ-matched comparison group to identify markers of creativity,
not just intelligence. The researchers analyzed how connections were
made between brain regions globally and locally.
creativity was associated with more random connectivity at the global
scale—a pattern that is less ‘efficient’ but would appear helpful in
linking distant brain nodes to each other,” Bilder said.
patterns in more local brain regions varied, depending on whether
people were performing tasks. Surprisingly, Big C creatives had more
efficient local processing at rest, but less efficient local
connectivity when performing a task demanding ‘thinking outside the
airline route maps for comparison, the researchers said the Big C
creatives’ brain activity is akin to skipping flights to connecting hubs
to get to a small city.
terms of brain connectivity, while everyone else is stuck in a
three-hour layover at a major airport, the highly creatives take private
planes directly to a distant destination,” Anderson said.
more random connectivity may be less efficient much of the time, but
the architecture enables brain activity to ‘take a road less traveled’
and make novel connections.”
who has more than 30 years’ experience researching brain-behavior
relations, said, “The fact that Big C people had more efficient local
brain connectivity, but only under certain conditions, may relate to
their expertise. Consistent with some of our prior findings, they may
not need to work as hard as other smart people to perform certain
artists and scientists in the study were nominated by panels of experts
before being validated as exceptional based on objective metrics. The
“smart” comparison group was recruited from participants in a previous
UCLA study who had agreed to be contacted for possible participation in
future studies, and from advertisements in the community for individuals
with graduate degrees.
researchers made efforts to ensure that age, sex, race and ethnicity
were comparable to those of participants in the Big C groups.
Author: Press Office
Contact: Press Office – UCLA
Image: The image is in the public domain
Original Research: Closed access.
“Big-C creativity in artists and scientists is associated with more random global but less random local fMRI functional connectivity” by Ariana Anderson et al. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts